Koninklijke Vereniging - Société Royale



Seminar highlights ECDIS operational problems

ECDIS Ltd has come a long way since it was founded in 2008 to offer the IMO 1.27


Generic ECDIS course.

It has since evolved into the largest global independent company in its field, offering over 30 STCW courses.

The company’s original IMO 1.27 Generic ECDIS course is now delivered worldwide every week to thousands of seafarers, however this only amounted to 2.4% of ECDIS Ltd’s turnover (fiscal year 2013/2014), due to customer driven expansion, the company said.

Earlier this year, the eMaritime Group (eMG) was launched, which is claimed to be the world’s first single website and mobile app to include all maritime discounts and services as a ‘one stop shop’.

The website took three years to design, reflecting its diversity and wide range of services offered; from cost effective on-line training to heavily discounted simulators and MCA approved STCW courses, on-line only distribution of cost competitive S57 ENC charts and a free social network for seafarers offering hundreds of jobs, regulations, plus the latest breaking news, new videos, relevant articles, media releases and white papers, the company said.

ECDIS operations still remain a key component of the company’s training and consultancy services. Thus far, there are 39 ECDIS type approvals issued with more to come with no standardisation among the OEMS, according to eMG and ECDIS Ltd’s managing director Mark Broster, speaking at a seminar last month.

The seminar was organised by eMG to highlight the forthcoming mandatory ECDIS upgrade, due to come into force on 1st September, this year. From that date, all vessels will be expected to have upgraded their ECDIS software to the International Hydrographic Organisation (IHO) Presentation Library edition 4.0 within the S-52 display specification standard to remain compliant.

Basically, as well as ensuring greater consistency in the display of ENC data across all ECDIS, the new standards deliver other benefits for the mariner, the UkHO said at the seminar.

For example, the latest Presentation Library addresses the number one complaint levelled at ECDIS - constant audible alarms. By providing clear guidance to ECDIS manufacturers on ENC objects that will raise an alarm, it was claimed that the issue of bridge alarm fatigue had been tackled.

In addition, information such as fairway and anchorage area names now appear on screen, with landmarks, lights and buoys viewable via a ‘hover-over’ function. Both initiatives reduce the time-consuming need to find information buried in a pick report.

The seminar speakers - UkHO’s Thomas Mellor, Head of OEM Technical Support and Digital Standards and chairman of the ENC maintenance working group, Uk MAIB’s Richard North and ECDIS Ltd’s Mark Broster all found that the current ECDIS operations were causing seafarers problems.

Despite the UkHO producing Admiralty charts for more than 200 years, the responsibility for the ENC portrayal on an ECDIS screen is controlled by the ECDIS standard S-52, which is authored by the IHO.

The UkHO has a laboratory of different ECDIS set up to test ENCs. It was found that some ECDIS were fitted with old software and even the upgraded software was missing certain information streams. Thus the IHO S­64 standard for test data has been updated.

Speaking about the problems with alarms, Mellor said that certain crew had asked for the alarms to be disengaged and some shipowning company had agreed to the request.

Taking the case of the grounding of the chemical tanker ’Ovit’ on the Varne Bank in September, 2013, MAIB inspectors found that the vessel’s ECDIS alarm had been disabled. “This is the biggest problem we face,” Mellor said, continuing that the new Presentation Library would address this problem.

According to Broster, some 16 OEMS had yet to confirm their 4.0 compliance and he thought that around 25% of ECDIS won’t be compliant by the 31st August cut-off date.

He highlighted the fact that for example, V.Ships and BP Shipping operate vessels fitted with many different OEM ECDIS. He was also worried about cyber security and said that nobody understood it. “Maybe we should pause now due to the cyber risk,” he said.

Questions asked

North suggested that an ECDIS display panel should be as big as a chart table it was meant to replace, especially when used for route planning purposes. He called for a more human centric equipment design - a more systems approach to the problem. North also asked why weren’t seafarers asked for their opinion as to their expectancy against the actual ECDIS operations and why didn’t organisations engage with OEMS about how they are being hampered by regulations.

In recent months, eMG auditors have been travelling around the world conducting on board bridge team ECDIS audits. The aim is to provide the Master, management company or operator an objective assessment of the state of the bridge team and associated administration and equipment.

This intense one day procedure can be conducted worldwide, either alongside or underway and includes the whole bridge team highlighting every aspect of navigation.

One company spokesperson said; ” We were pleasantly surprised to find that as part of the audit service, we received a thorough health check of our overall bridge procedures, documentation and company policy regarding ECDIS.”

eMG is able to arrange audits at short notice anywhere in the world on any day of the week or even weekends. Broster explained; “We appreciate ships need us to work around their schedule and accommodate them to allow the standard work flow. As such we are more than able to accommodate such demands.

“We don’t hold any punches with our audits, we have a lot of ground to cover in the single day and so crew tend to be quite overwhelmed by the end of the day. However, our clients are always appreciative afterwards and have time to take in the information and always proves to be beneficial,” he claimed.

The group is currently working on several other initiatives to enhance the training services on offer. For example, 24/7 live simulator seatime training has been developed and a shipping company client is currently in negotiations to start the training courses very soon.

The idea is to run the courses on a full four hours on and eight off rotation with the crew staying in a nearby hotel and training staff will be working directly with them the whole time.

A new simulator project -Live Constructive Simulation (LCS) - is also underway, incorporating live AIS data, as well as photo-realistic graphics, on which, the early development work has been completed.
The company is awaiting the ‘green light’ go to ahead with the first project, Mike Backhouse, ECDIS Ltd’s head of marketing told Tanker Operator.

ECDIS compliant

In a separate announcement, early last month, the UkHO said that almost three-quarters of commercial vessels of over 20,000 gt were already compliant with the SOLAS-mandated ECDIS deadline of 1st July, 2017.

The UkHO estimated that a further 3,828 cargo ships of over 20,000 gt were yet to make the transition to using an ENC service and therefore do not yet meet SOLAS regulations on ECDIS carriage.

The amendment to SOLAS Chapter V regulation 19.2 requires ships engaged on international voyage to be fitted with an ECDIS no later than the first survey on or after a date based on the type of ship and its size in gross tonnage. Only ENCs supplied from official hydrographic offices can be used in ECDIS to meet SOLAS requirements for nautical charts and to be considered ECDIS ready.

Just over 12 months ago, the SOLAS regulations on ECDIS carriage were extended to cover cargo ships of over 50,000 gt. Today (early July), 90% of these larger vessels are now considered ECDIS ready.

Emphasising the importance of compliance, Mellor said in the announcement: “The latest data indicates that the category of cargo ships over 50,000 gt is close to being the first to complete its transition to ECDIS, with only a few hundred ships remaining, which is positive news. Progress is also being made among cargo ships over 20,000 gt, with almost three-quarters already using an ENC service.

“However, it is important to be aware of the implications for the several thousand of cargo ships and any others whose ECDIS deadline has passed without having yet adopted ECDIS.

“For example, if a ship is detained by Australian Port State Control for non­compliance, the only way of lifting that detention is to first become compliant. Whilst ships have until the first survey after their deadline, in some cases this may mean fitting an ECDIS and training crew at considerable cost and delay,” he warned.

Chris Berkley, UkHO’s senior product manager, outlined the support that the UkHO continues to offer to shipowners and operators to help them achieve the safe, effective and compliant use of ECDIS: “As well as UkHO producing AVCS - the world’s leading ENC service - our latest ‘Living with ECDIS’ seminars continue to offer guidance that reflects the considerable progress made by shipowners and operators in their use of ECDIS over the last three years.

“We address the latest challenges faced by shipping companies by offering free practical advice, answering questions on ECDIS management and updating them on the latest IHO ENC standards,” he said.

Since the ECDIS mandate was introduced, the UkHO claimed that it had highlighted the importance of understanding that having an ECDIS fitted does not guarantee compliance or constitute its effective use. In addition to subscribing to an ENC service, shipping companies have also been encouraged to ensure that they have revised bridge policies and procedures in their ship’s Safety Management System (SMS) to reflect the requirements of safe, effective and compliant ECDIS operation; that ECDIS software is upgraded to comply with the latest IHO ENC standards and that its bridge teams are competent and confident in using ECDIS to its full potential.

With the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) taking a zero-tolerance approach to breaches of these regulations, having gone as far as to require compliance with SOLAS under Australian law, this is legislation that cannot be ignored.

For example, between January and May this year, AMSA recorded 142 deficiencies under ‘safety of navigation’, which resulted in 15 vessels being detained. Many of these deficiencies related to ECDIS and with ECDIS-awareness campaigns planned by the Paris and Tokyo MoUs for the end of this year, there will be an increasing focus on Safety of Navigation , the UKHO warned.





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